Tomorrow on Halifax council's will have another presentation regarding the Long Term Arena Strategy (LATA). The consolidation and centralization of rinks in both Dartmouth and peninsular Halifax have been widely debated across our city. Rightfully so, the LATA if implemented will have the power to significantly change neighbourhoods on both sides of the harbour and how some residents access recreation services.
Recreation service delivery and provision of recreation facilities is an important part of the many services that a city can deliver to residents. People all across our city depend on and enjoy recreation services being delivered in their communities. Centralization, under the guise of austerity; we should ask ourselves who this plan is truly serving because it is not the residents.
First, if we consider the Halifax proposal to enter into a partnership with CFB Halifax, that would see the Halifax Forum close and a 3 or 4 pad be built in Windsor Park. While the location is still relatively central, and equally accessible by transit, active transit and car—there are other concerns. The Halifax Forum is a community centre, it not only holds ice surfaces but always venues for bingo, concerts and a whole host of community events during the year. For the North end of Halifax it is a hub that anchors the surrounding area, brings people together and also brings people to the North end from other parts of the city. The Halifax Forum Community Association (HFCA) has submitted a proposal to the city, that would see the Forum saved, upgraded and ice surface added while keeping the additional space the supports community. However, even with strong support from the community Halifax staff still are opting to recommend the partnership with CFB Halifax. Partnering with CFB Halifax certainly seems favourable on the surface, but there are many variables and some that may not be apparent presently. The Department of National Defense is in a huge time of flux and transformation, and the future of any partnership could change as their departmental direction changes.
In Dartmouth, the proposal is equally ridiculous. Staff are proposing the closure of 3-4 community based rinks, with the majority of them in the core of the old city of Dartmouth. The favourable location based on staff reports to locate a new 4-pad is Commodore drive in Burnside. To suggest that location presents a myriad of issues that are counter to the vision of the regional plan: liveable, walkable communities. Closing community rinks and relocating them to Burnside does nothing to support this. Burnside is poorly serviced by Halifax Tranist, not friendly for active transit which leaves the only reliable way for access by car. Immediately the physical location presents a barrier to access to many residents of Dartmouth, especially when we consider the communities of Dartmouth North, East and Woodside where financial challenges exits. Furthermore, looking via a health equity lens centralizing is a poor choice as it will significantly limit year round access to recreation services in communities that presently lack diverse access to such. Thus in turn greatly increase the potential to create less healthy and happy residents.
Both proposals do not take community into account, in fact it is an attack on community trying to be presented as a gift under the guise of austerity. Yes, we want or city to operate in a financially responsible manner, but we also want there to be a balance and that community voices are heard and respected. I ask all councillors to sincerely pause and reflect: Who will these new facilities serve? How will they impact our residents that are most at risk and need community based supports? Will these two proposals create new or reduce existing health inequities? All across our city, citizens are calling out for balance, respect and accountability of city hall. City Recreation services belong in community, not in an industrial park or on part of a military base.
Let’s build up community, not tear it down.